For decades, I had been mispronouncing the last name of photographer Annie Leibovitz. I can even tell you when I figured it out, in December 2011, watching JEOPARDY! of course. One of the contestants gave the response, “Who is Annie Leibowitz?” with a W rather than a V. It is a common mistake, Alex Trebek explained.
Still, I should have figured it out. I had been looking at her work since the 1970s, when she was first staff photographer at Rolling Stone before she became chief photographer in 1973 at the age of 23. She had a “look”, maybe her choice of lighting, that seemed distinctive to me.
She took lots of pictures of the Rolling Stones when they were on tour. Bette Midler in a bed of roses after she starred in the 1979 film The Rose was iconic. Her most famous magazine cover may have been taken on December 8, 1980, of a nude John Lennon lying next to his clothed wife Yoko Ono, taken hours before his murder.
In 1983, Annie Leibovitz she moved to Vanity Fair. Her most noted photo at that magazine was likely a 1991 cover shot showing this actress Demi Moore nude, holding her pregnant belly. In 2003, the magazine noted that her name had become synonymous with the magazine’s “visual brilliance.” In those twenty years, she shot “104 covers and countless portraits for the magazine. In this 24-page portfolio…, V.F. honors the art of America’s most famous photographer.”
Among her other photographs is the one on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album showing the Boss’ rear end. For Vogue’s millennium special issue, she grouped 13 historic supermodels to shoot the gatefold cover.
In 1991 she had her first museum exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, a rare honor for a living photographer.
In 2014 Annie Leibovitz discussed Nine Assignments that Shaped Her Career. “Leibovitz said some of her most important work was a series of photos she took of her apparently abusive partner, essayist Susan Sontag. She said Sontag had extremely high expectations for the photos, which Leibovitz found frustrating. After Sontag died of Myelodysplastic syndrome in 2004, Leibovitz looked back at photos and said she was proud.”
Anna-Lou “Annie” Leibovitz turns 70 today.